Dying Light Review: The Fun Happens At Night


Developer: Techland

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Reviewed), Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360

Release Date: January 27th

I invite my friend to play Dying Light with me. He’s some levels lower than I am, but altogether it does not matter. The zombies of Dying Light are as difficult as they will be from start to finish. Not because any of the zombie types get any stronger, rather the spaces in which you find them are so uneven. The difficulty curve is in learning how to navigate these narrow apartment hallways but especially so when there are hungry hordes running towards any noises.

We finish the mission and, despite a couple hiccups, we find ourselves outside in the Old Town section of Harran. The towering buildings are much safer at this hour. Volatiles roam the streets at night and avoiding their gaze is much easier running rooftops. Plus, in the event of being seen, the extra height makes for a layer of protection and gives an advantage on these undead antagonists.

Up to this point, my friend has never played Dying Light at night. Like many I played with early in the game, he took the warnings of the game seriously and always tucked himself into a safe house as the sun went down. So I took him on a night time terror chase. We ended up getting chased by a horde of volatiles before holing up at a safe house as I eradicated scores of them with a police rifle, molotovs, and throwing stars.

In the middle of that session, another person joined in on the fun. A night hunter began tracking us down and attempting to kill us. This is an additional Be The Zombie mode which allows players to become zombies that hunt other human players in their games.

My friend and I characterize our troubles with some humor as this random guy hunts us down and picks us off little bit by little bit until we have no more lives left. My nephew is watching alongside me and my sister is commenting about how stupid we are for not staying on the roofs, but roaming the roads. It has truly become a bit of a family affair with my friend in his house overhearing all of my family’s snarky comments about my abilities.

“Use your grappling hook!” “Why are you running with the light? It attracts them!” Amongst a score of other denigrating comments that seem to suggest my 20+ hours of play have not made me any better at this game. They watched me survive not one but two wildly muscular demolishers amongst a score of virals, but now I am no better than a trash can.

Dying Light is an amazing example of what can happen to a genre if you infuse even the little bit of fun into it. So much of the survival horror genre has a bent to make you feel scared or creeped out, it forgets you are capable of a far greater range of emotions. In accordance with the best of the genre, Dying Light is every bit as capable of horrifying and dreadful moments. The far greater accomplishment is in polishing a play style that allows for you to advance through what would otherwise be a rather linear story with your own sense of style and grit.

Travel on top of Harran with grace as you parkour and zipline to your destinations. All the while you become an agile athlete who stalks his prey from above. Melee your way through zombie hordes encountering Virals, Volatiles, Demolishers, Bolters, and other variations of the Harran virus on the streets. Become a master of weaponry and able to withstand larger and larger hordes of zombies as your stamina grows and your proficiency with weapons grows.

Complete most of your tasks by night and you can make yourself into something of a legend as you maneuver around stalkers collecting airdrops and returning them to your camp to provide materials for other runners. Upping the ante with each run, your evasive techniques will make you into one capable of deftly agile feats. The growth of your character is very much up to you. His interactions with the landscape will define much of what your approach may be in upgrading him.

Dying Light allow the user to express some of their own varying creative wishes throughout the game. An accomplishment serving to highlight the few times the game limits those options in a negative, but not in an “are you kidding me, Arkham Asylum?!” kind of way. It is out of necessity to the way the story interacts with you because what else would a man do in a world like Harran. There is no cable. You are the news programming. There is no wi-fi. You barely have water. Throughout the game, you are sent on nothing but fetch quests because the only thing you can do to help end people’s sufferings is to get the things they need.

Dying Light makes fetch quests fun, hilarious, stressful, horrifying encounters, but they are still just a laundry list of fetch quests. There is no stealing cars, rampaging elephants, cool flight sequences, etc. to break the montony. You do get the occasional slow-motion head chopping or skull crushing moment. Rank up your survivor points and grab some weapons that will make you think the Walking Dead TV show is playing it really safe.

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Once you figure it all out though, even if you are basically playing a vigilante that’s never going to be as cool as Batman like say maybe Daredevil, you are still putting some rather expensive makeup on for a mundane outing. The story is not remotely bad, but it is a bit tired. Only so many times someone from outside a remote area must come to save the day. It shows in the way dealing with the people of Harran is much more interesting than finishing your story. Imagine if they could talk to you about more than just their need for crayons. Techland deserves credit in creating a world and gameplay which makes the story so bearable you might not care to notice these things.

P.S. Be The Zombie mode while fun, the mini-game is somewhat repetitive in that sessions last a bit long. There are no auto adjustments for the game session so no matter what there are ten lives for human players and 5 nests for the one zombie to protect.

Image captured on my PS4

This disrupts a good amount of time in a single player game where I am really just attempting to finish another fetch mission. The ability to jump in and out of co-op multiplayer, when it works, works well for Dying Light, unfortunately I think the Zombie Hunter mode is a bit too antagonistically intrusive and lasts a bit too long. A couple players I encountered even went so far as to turn off public game sessions to avoid intrusion from a zombie hunter and I cannot say I blame them.

The movement of the Zombie Hunter, however, will make you wonder: how has there not been a game featuring Venom from Spider-Man like this? (I’m not saying Techland has to do it, but if they ever got bored of zombies in paradise…) Using tendrils to make your way across the landscape is just as addicting as the human parkour in the regular campaign.



  • Game movement in all modes is top of its class in the first person genre
  • Capable enemies make for significant challenges
  • Gritty mechanics, awesome slow motion moves, great graphics with few hiccups
  • Fully realized narrative environment
  • Begs for exploration and makes learning the game fun


  • More dramatic elements felt rushed
  • Final encounter a bit underwhelming compared to rest of the game
  • Preponderance of repetitive side quests and activities

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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